The art of Kahn & Selesnick — otherwise known as Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, who met at Washington University in St. Louis in the ’80s, moved to the Cape in 1988, and have been collaborating as a creative team for more than 30 years — is difficult to categorize.
Starting out as photographers and printmakers, Kahn & Selesnick have evolved into the realm of narrative and performance, and the show commemorating their careers at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, opening Friday, Sept. 18, through Nov. 15, is more than just a few prints hung on the wall.
Instead, the exhibit, “Theatre of Operations: Kahn & Selesnick on the Outer Cape, 1989-2019,” curated by Mark Adams and Maura Coughlin, is filled with artifacts — panoramic photographs, wall installations, maps, text, costumes, and props — of performances that no longer exist. The museum’s write-up explains it best: “Kahn & Selesnick may be viewed essentially as filmmakers whose final output includes all the elements of filmmaking other than the actual film itself.”
In these artifacts, the Outer Cape is the backdrop for environmental dramas enacted by Kahn & Selesnick and their theatrical cast, sometimes known as the Truppe Fledermaus. The photographic imagery that documents these performances (and are sold to collectors) evokes commedia dell’arte and the eerie Americana photographed by Diane Arbus. It’s an exhibit of unnatural history.
PAAM is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but admission ($12.50; free to members and those 16 or under) is by reserved, hour-long time-slots only, available at paam.org. Kahn & Selesnick are represented in Provincetown by the Schoolhouse Gallery. —Howard Karren